Our Choice of Best Team Sports for Kids
As parents, we want to make sure that our children grow and develop in all the best ways possible. We spend days researching the best schools, pediatricians, and food ingredients; all in the hopes of raising our children to be healthy, happy, and well adjusted. One thing more and more parents are exploring is the many benefits of youth sports. Whether you want to expose your kids to their first taste of competition, teach them how to play as a member of a team, or just let them burn off some excess energy, chances are great that somewhere out there is a sporting activity that is a perfect match for your little one.
Finding a good fit for your child when it comes to the right sport can be a bit of trial and error though. When my oldest was a bit younger we enrolled him in just about anything that we thought he might enjoy. First came soccer, then Cub Scouts, then we tried a junior theater group, then baseball, then back to soccer, and on and on it went. Some of the sports and activities he enjoyed and some sounded like a better fit for him than they turned out to be. But our policy was a simple one: “Have fun, do your best, and finish what you start.” Apart from one unfortunate season of baseball, we were able to adhere to this philosophy.
What we found was that our son would enjoy pretty much anything that allowed him to run around for a while each week and play with his friends, but if our goal was to improve his character weaknesses and enhance his individual strengths, we were going to have to put a little thought into which sports we would invest in. Luckily for parents, there’s a sport out there for just about any child; the trick is knowing what to look for.
With a growing popularity in America among adults, this sport is well worth considering for children as well. The martial arts have long been sought out by parents looking to instill discipline and structure in their kids. Boasting a long history of developing strength, self-awareness, respect, and focus, Jiu Jitsu is about much more than just learning to fight. Your child will gain self confidence in themselves as they progress through the tiers of colored belts by displaying their skills. In Jiu Jitsu, children learn about respecting their elders and superiors, showing respect not only to peers, but also subordinates. Their focus will be honed through the memorization of different skills and techniques that will also improve their ability to defend themselves should they find themselves in a physical confrontation.
With school bullying becoming more prevalent these days, many parents are turning to Jiu Jitsu to help their children not only learn to defend themselves, but to also possess the self-confidence that can be lacking for many young kids. But wait, how does Jiu Jitsu fit into team sports? If enhancing team work and cooperation are goals for your family, don’t worry; Most Jiu Jitsu Dojo’s (schools) have internal as well as traveling tournaments that your child will have the chance to compete in. This is a great way for your kids to display their personal skills while still performing as part of a broader team. Whether they represent their own Dojo at a larger tournament in town or abroad, or just their peers at their own skill level at an internal competition, your child will have the opportunity to show off what they’ve learned and support their fellow competitors at the same time. If your child thrives on structure and discipline, take a good look at this martial sport.
Soccer has a special place in my family’s hearts. I couldn’t begin to count how many weekday evenings or Saturday mornings were spent at a soccer field under the beating sun or enduring the freezing cold. Soccer appeals to young children right away for one key advantage: lots and lots of running around. Apart from the goalie, your child is going to spend a great deal of their time on the field running. With the size of a Soccer goal, even if your child plays goalie, they’re going to get their aerobic activity in as well. As far as rules go, soccer is a younger kid’s dream sport. Most kids quickly grasp not only what their role is on the field, but are even able to follow along while they sit on the bench waiting their turn to play. Soccer, like many team sports, helps children to practice playing a role as a member of a team. The offensive player’s roles are to score the points, the defensive players keep the ball away from their team’s goal, and the goalies keep the ball out of their team’s net. When children can fully grasp the workings of an activity, they are more likely to emotionally invest in it. The benefit for you as the parent is that your child is going to burn off a lot of energy on the field. For the most part, game scores are fairly low; although with the younger players this can be otherwise from time to time. Rarely are there “blow-out” victories that younger plays can get discouraged by, and odds are if your child is very young, points may not be kept at all. If you’d like your little one to work on hand and eye coordination, team work, aerobic endurance, and lower body strength, take a good look at soccer.
If you want to see parents get as involved (and more so in some cases) with a youth sport as their kids do, go to a local pee-wee or junior football game. Not only great for developing coordination, teamwork, and endurance, football is a great sport for the memorization of complex plays and for understanding their roles in the broader scope of the game. Each member of the team must play their part effectively in order to achieve success, even if the big picture is not immediately evident to them at the time. Throwing, catching, running, kicking, and tackling are all great developmental tools that become sharpened through hours of practice and regular season games. Your child will hone their speed and endurance and, depending on their position, many other physical attributes as well. Plenty of advances in sports equipment technology have made football very safe for children, which is a concern for many parents. With long seasons and lots of practice, odds are your child will not only get into excellent shape while playing football, but also have the chance to burn off a lot of energy throughout the week. Having a number of different coaches also means that your little one will develop respect and discipline skills while enjoying one of America’s most popular sports.
Baseball & T-Ball
Often dubbed “America’s Pastime”, no mention of team sports for children would be complete without Baseball. For the younger players, both T-Ball and “Coach Pitch” baseball are available not only to help your child enjoy the sport, but also hone their skills at the game at a speed that is more appropriate for their skill level. The constant throwing, catching, and hitting will increase their hand and eye coordination and the required running will enhance both aerobic capacity as well as lower body strength. Every team and league that we have participated in over the years has allowed the kids to rotate the different positions on the team so that they have an opportunity to see which positions they are good at, and which ones they enjoy the most. The one drawback to baseball is that at some point your child is going to have to get comfortable with patience. For the littler kids, not many balls make it to the outfield, and waiting their turn to bat is just the nature of the game. The good news is that each child is going to have their moment in the sun when they step up to the plate and all eyes are on them. For the more shy types, this is helpful in them gaining self-confidence by being in the spotlight. If you want your child to improve a very broad scope of attributes, baseball is a great sport for them to try.
When it comes to team sports, volleyball often gets overlooked. The fact is that there are few better ways to improve aerobic capacity and reflexes than by playing volleyball. The action often comes at a fast pace with bursts of activity which helps to keep kid’s focus on the game. With rapid playing position rotations, your child will get to try their hand at each in short periods of time. The team aspect of volleyball is also a great way for your child to develop their social skills. Each player can only touch the ball one time before another player on their team has to hit it in an effort to get it over the net. This means that when it comes to team play, volleyball is right towards the top of the list for its teamwork and necessity for communication. Whether you join an indoor or an outdoor league, you’ll find some of the most competitive players of any sport at a volleyball match.
Traditionally practiced by Americans more to the north of the US, the popularity of indoor ice rinks is making it so that you can find hockey leagues in just about every city across the country. One thing that hockey brings to the table is the need for developing good balance. If just ice skating is a proverbial mountain to climb, ice skating while trying to stop, pass, and hit a small frozen rubber puck all while avoiding opposing team members is in a whole different category. Much like soccer, hockey is a sport that offers non-stop action and aerobic work, so kids not only get excellent exercise, but they are entertained and engaged continuously. Also, much like soccer, hockey teaches kids the importance of communication and team work. Depending on the league you find to join, equipment prices can be a little on the higher end, but as in football and other team sports, that equipment is designed to make sure that your child is safe while playing. No local ice rink? No problem; both indoor floor hockey and field hockey offer the same benefits as ice hockey, minus much of the balance piece, and are also widely available.
Running & Cross Country
In the same way as Jiu Jitsu, the running and track and field sports offer your child a chance to grow and develop as individuals while still being part of a team dynamic. Running offers one of the most versatile athletic opportunities of the sports. From the variety of track events such as distant sprinting, to running on cross country routes, not only does it offer a wide range of physical exercise benefits, but it allows your child to participate in a number of individual events. Some kids may find that they thrive on the track doing team relays while others may enjoy the scenic opportunity provided by focusing on cross country running with its off-road trails and endurance-paced jogs. Running is a great choice for kids who may want to try several sports to see what they like because if most sports have one thing in common, it’s the need for aerobic endurance. By taking time to develop their lower body muscles and lung capacity, your kid will have the physical foundation to branch off into other sports should they decide to. Like Jiu Jitsu, your child will be able to demonstrate their individual abilities while still supporting the entire team, so good sportsmanship and comradery won’t be left under-developed.
Jumping, tumbling, dancing, and balance; cheerleading offers a great deal of diversity for your child wanting to join an energetic and enthusiastic team. If your kid likes to perform and have the attention of numerous spectators, then cheerleading deserves some serious consideration. The advantage of cheerleading is that while your child is improving their flexibility and lung capacity cheering, they are also memorizing complex choreography in the dance routines. Like running, if your child is still trying to decide which sport that they want to invest themselves in, cheerleading allows them to be part of a team, and stay active while participating in a less conventional sport. Not limited to just the sidelines of the larger sporting events, cheerleading offers the opportunity to compete in various cheer competitions both locally and abroad. These tournaments are a great way to develop the competitive characteristics in children in a fun and exciting way.
For improving coordination, speed, and power, look no further than the local tennis courts. This sport is an excellent choice for those children that like to be a part of a small team or compete as an individual as part of a broader group. Tennis is another good choice of sport for those kids that need to have their attention kept through constant activity. Your young athlete will develop both upper and lower body power as well as aerobic endurance while playing. The constant movement to hit the ball to a specific location on the court will also enhance your child’s gross motor skills, skills that will continue to develop and improve as your child grows into the sport. Another key skill improved through tennis is dynamic balance, or the ability to start and stop from multiple planes of movement. Continuous exercise of this type is shown to improve the strength and flexibility of multiple joints and promotes an overall increase in physical conditioning.
If someone were to ask me what the most important aspect about youth sports for my children, I would probably struggle to choose an answer. I enjoy the fact that my boys are learning healthy practices; be that stretching, conditioning, or even good eating habits. I like that they are put into competitive positions in which the fruits of their labor are brought to bear. I love that they are involved in an activity in which they are taught to be humble in victory, and gracious in defeat. No doubt my kids love that they get to put on special outfits and gear and run around with their friends and have fun. As a parent, I want my children to put themselves in situations where they apply themselves within the confines of safe risk. They will not always win, they will likely never win alone, and whatever happens, it will be because of the effort that they and their team put in. These lessons reverberate throughout our lives in so many endeavors, both as children and later as adults. Sports are not the be-all-end-all in our family. I could care less who wins or loses; all we care about is that our boys put their best effort in and strive to be good teammates. If they sleep a little bit earlier the night of practice or a game, well that’s all the better.